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Doug Fister boosts Detroit Tigers rotation

Doug Fister vastly improve the Tigers' rotation this year and beyond.
Doug Fister vastly improve the Tigers' rotation this year and beyond.

All along, it was no secret the Detroit Tigers needed help in the rotation. Righthander Doug Fister, who has been acquired in a six-player deal with the Seattle Mariners, certainly gives the Tigers the boost they needed.

He's not flashy like James Shields or Ubaldo Jimenez in that he doesn't strike out a lot of players. Strikeout pitchers are stars. Efficient pitchers who stay out of too much trouble are the bread and butter that gets your team into the playoffs. Just ask the Minnesota Twins about that.

So I'm not under the impression fans are going to run around with a finger in the air chanting "We're No. 1! We're No. 1!" like they might have if a few other names out there were acquired before the deadline. That's fine. This is a very solid move Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski has made and certainly gives Detroit's playoff chances a shot in the arm.

There are a few things to like about the 27-year-old, 6-foot-8 player (Fangraphs stats). The first is that he doesn't hurt himself. For his career, his walks per nine inning average is less than 2. Giving up free bases forces the batters to put it in play if they want to get on base. Add to that that his groundball rate is around 45% and you have a recipe for double plays. And yes, that's considering the Tigers' infield defense isn't exactly the best thing out there. Because Fister limits walks, he's going to get more chances to create outs and double plays. So that's a good thing.

As a quick look at what he features: Fister's fastball is improved this year and slightly faster. It averages in the upper-89 range, so obviously can be thrown in the lower 90s. He's also relying on his secondary pitches more this year. According to Gameday's algorithms, he throws a fastball 56% of the time, a slider 17% (up from 10%), a curveball 15% (up from 9%) and a changeup 10% (down from 14%). Most pitches have been finding above-average results. Batters are offering at more pitches outside the zone and making contact less often than last year. His whiff rate is up to 6.3%, exactly the same as Rick Porcello's.

I've heard some fears have came up in message boards and talk radio because Fister's pitching record is 3-12. Forget pitcher wins and losses. They mean very little. Seattle has scored the fewest runs in the MLB; 135 fewer than the Tigers even. Fister's run support per game is 2.4. That borders on insane. Phil Coke struggled to get run support -- he had the lowest on the team as a starter -- and his was 4.1. Some Tigers starts are in the upper 5s. Fister has 12 quality starts in 21 games and yet lost five of them. To compare, Fister's quality start percentage is on par with Rick Porcello's, and higher than Max Scherzer's and Brad Penny's.

Fister's ERA is 3.33 this season and 3.81 for his career. Both stats compared to others in the Tigers' rotation place him second behind Justin Verlander. But he pitches in Seattle with a nice ballpark and a nice defense. How do his sabermetric stats look? Still pretty good. He has a 3.23 FIP. Correcting for home runs gives a 3.93 xFIP. Fangraphs' SIERA stat, which ranks as a great predictor, is also 3.93. Those stats put him behind Verlander and Scherzer, but ahead of Porcello and Brad Penny. Taken together, what we see is a pitcher who might be loosely labeled as a No. 3 starter, who should be expected to get about the same results as Rick Porcello. In other words, a great boost to the rotation who gives Detroit a big push toward the division title.

The other key combination comes off the field. He's not a rental, and he's not expensive. Fister is in only his third year of MLB baseball. His MLB service time entering the season was just over 1, so Cot's Contracts reports he is not arbitration eligible until 2013 and can't be a free agent until after 2015. So the Tigers have found a pitcher that can stay in the rotation for years to come without breaking the bank. Right now, you can erase "starting pitcher" from the offseason shopping list. When Brad Penny leaves, one of the top prospects -- in all likelihood Jacob Turner -- has a clear path to the rotation in 2012.

Fister is just what the Tigers needed.

A word about the rest of the trade follows.

To sum up what happened this morning into one post, the trade looks like this:

Doug Fister and right-handed reliever David Pauley (Fangraphs stats) come from Seattle to Detroit. Left-handed starter Charlie Furbush, outfielder Casper Wells, 20-year-old third base prospect Fransisco Martinez and a player to be named later are headed to Seattle. The PTBNL may be from a list of players Seattle can choose from, or it might be a player who has not reached the one-year mark on his contract. That is currently unknown.

Pauley is outperforming his peripheral stats, but makes Detroit's bullpen better. David Tokarz has more on him.

Overall, I think most knowledgeable people are receiving this trade positively. It's sad to see Wells go, but he should get a chance to play more often in Seattle. Detroit gave up a decent position prospect, but appears to have held on to its top prospects, Jacob Turner and Nick Castellanos.

I know I approve of the trade. Dombrowski did a nice job this morning.